Have you ever discovered a blog and fallen in love with its author, to the point that you find yourself searching online for as much information about the person as you can find (because you want to e-know them better)? Or maybe it was a YouTuber who enchanted you. Have you ever reached out to the blogger or video blogger (vlogger) to say hello or tell them that you think they’re cool? If you have, join the club because I have too! I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become smitten with bloggers over the years after connecting with their writing, their brand, or who I imagined they were from reading their blog or watching their vlogs. While I was stalking—I mean researching—a vlogger last year, I came across a forum where people who had allegedly met her shared their disappointment, using words like “rude”, “conceited”, and “snobby” to describe her—a far cry from the sweet charmer she appeared to be on YouTube. In the eyes of some of her (now ex-) fans, she had failed the authenticity test.
Authenticity is complicated
The reason authenticity is complex is because we’re multi-faceted, and we can’t behave in exactly the same way at all times—we’re smart enough to choose the appropriate behaviour for the situation; this doesn’t make you inauthentic. The way you’d talk with your parents differs from how you’d talk to your siblings, or best friend, or colleagues, or the Queen, from the language you’d use, to the level of formality or familiarity you’d express, even if you were discussing the same topic with each group. The same is true online: someone who may swear a lot when they talk may choose not to have any swearing in their blog. With online communications, you have the luxury of reviewing what you’ve recorded or written and editing it before posting; not so when you’re speaking, which can lead to reality not matching the airbrushed perception.
My experience and views on authenticity online
When I started my blog it was important to me that if someone who knew me discovered the blog, they’d recognize me—not because I secretly wanted to be found but because it would mean I was being myself online. Similarly, if my parents (who know my blog address) ever read it, I’d want them to recognize their daughter, the one they think is sometimes too personal on her blog, but who they don’t try to change. So, I’d be disappointed if a stranger who reads my blog met me in person and said that I wasn’t at all like they expected me to be, even if they meant it as a compliment. It would mean I’d failed to effectively convey who I am.
For me, being authentic means sharing the good and the bad (but not necessarily ALL the good and ALL the bad) on my blog, and tweeting about the mundane (like my not-full Starbucks drink), because I’m the kind of girl who notices the mundane. My version of authenticity means not tweeting about every major world event to show that I’ve heard the news—I know that I’m (overly?) sensitive to news of tragedies and terrible happenings in the world so I deal with it by praying and being solemn because for me, I’d feel disingenuous creating a blog post about a news event unless I had a message that the news just happened to highlight. My brand of authenticity means I’ll talk about feeling jealous, the pain of changing friendships, and anxiety about what my future holds. I won’t pretend to have it all together, or to be a perfect Christian, because it’s too much work to fake it, but thank God I can at least be at peace during the journey (more or less).
But wait—a few disclaimer-type things
- What I’ve shared applies to people who’ve made a decision to share about their entire lives, more or less: if a blog is focused on a specific niche, such as politics, it’s very possible that that political blogger is showing just one facet and the rest of their facets may not resemble someone who loves politics at all. To me that’s not inauthenticity; that’s exercising a facet. So before you call someone inauthentic, make sure you understand the context of their online life, and if you’re not sure, just ask.
- Many choose to blog anonymously and as a result they decide leave out details (such as marital status or where they live) that could give them away. I don’t see this as inauthentic, because the core of the person would be unchanged by these facts. Deliberately lying, on the other hand, is inauthentic—please don’t do what some have done on Twitter and create an entire fake life.
- That being said, I’m not telling you what to do (this time!), nor do I want to. If like me it’s important that your online self matches your in-person self, then hopefully what I’ve shared makes sense.
- Finally, video blogging is a great way to let more of the real you show, in ways that you might not even notice. Aside from the realness of seeing you live (versus just reading your words), fans will feel closer to you because they’ll get to see your mannerisms—maybe you have a tendency to play with your fingers when talking, or you say the words “um” too much (ahem).
I felt inspired to talk about authenticity very briefly in a video:
- If you’re online, is it important to you that your online personality match who you are in person?
- Have you ever met someone in person that you knew online and been surprised (in good or bad ways) at the difference between who they were online and who they were in person? This can work both ways—someone you can’t stand online might actually be lovely in person!